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Tall, Dark & Heartless: A Pyte/Sentinel Series Novel, Page 2

R. L. Mathewson

  Except for tonight of course.

  Tonight she really wished she'd given into her headache, one of many lately, and stayed home. No doubt she could have helped prepare the infirmary for tonight's casualties. Sharp pain shot behind her eyes causing her to drop her head in her hands.

  "Are you okay?" Kelly whispered.

  "Yeah, just a side effect of listening to longwinded assholes for too long," she explained, hoping Kelly would just drop it.

  Thankfully she did. "I'm surprised he let you in on this, you know considering...," she trailed off.

  So was Danni.

  She really expected the lying bastard, a.k.a. Greg, to get back at her by keeping her off this mission, but of course that would have been stupid since they both knew she'd probably save this mission if, when, he fucked up so he could get all the glory. She could really care less who got the credit, except she was afraid that he'd get promoted and would end up her boss. She really wouldn't be able to live with that. If that ever came to pass, and with his brownnosing abilities it was a likely possibility, she'd transfer to another human unit run by the Sentinel Council.

  "Let's go over the plan once again to make sure that everyone understands the mission," Greg said. A collective groan rose up from the small group, echoing throughout the tunnel and causing sharp pain to shoot through Danni's head.

  She rubbed her temples even as she had to ask herself if he was serious. They'd gone over the plan at the compound twice, once in the van on the way over here, and this would make it the third time in the tunnel. Danni looked at her watch and groaned.

  In an hour the sun would set and the vampire nest they were about to invade would be able to escape the old underground tunnel system. Then they'd be out of luck in getting everyone in this particular nest together again. Once a nest broke up, it never formed again. The damn vampires would scatter, not trusting anyone for awhile, because they could never be sure who tipped off the Sentinels in the first place.

  There was no way in hell Danni was going to sit here and listen to Greg ramble on nervously, giving her a killer headache and letting this nest full of rapists and murderers go free. Those were the crimes this particular nest was guilty of committing. Before any nest could be attacked or destroyed they had to be charged with a crime, which had to be proven. The last thing any Sentinel wanted to do was kill a group of "baggers", vampires who lived off bagged blood. They usually made very good allies, because they saw nests like this one as a threat to their peaceful existence.

  "-if we keep to the south tunnels I think we can-"

  Danni stopped listening as she closed her eyes and took deep calming breaths. Her headache was on the verge of becoming unmanageable. If they didn't move their asses and do this soon, she'd be completely useless. Maybe she should-

  "What do you think you're doing?" Greg suddenly demanded.

  Her eyes flew open half expecting to find Greg looking at her. Instead she found Greg glaring towards the right side of the tunnel. She followed his eyes and wasn't too surprised to find Caine throwing one of the explosive packs over his shoulder as he made his way to the tunnel entrance.

  Actually, truth be told, she was a bit surprised the Pyte actually sat here listening to any of Greg's repetitive bullshit in the first place since he couldn't stand Greg. Never had. That had been very clear to her even when she was a young child when Caine had appointed himself as her self-appointed protector. Anytime Greg came too close to her, Caine would stare the boy down until Greg had no choice but to piss himself and run away. Caine never explained why he disliked the little boy so much and she never asked, too happy to have an adult to spend time with her and one that actually cared about her. That happiness ended abruptly when she was seventeen and he suddenly acted like he didn't know her.

  The familiar ache started in her chest at the reminder of that lost friendship. He'd been her idol, her protector, and teacher. Losing his friendship was still one of the most painful experiences of her life. Her eyes darted to Greg. Thanks to the life lesson Caine taught her about being foolish enough to let someone get close to her, she'd been able to handle the humiliating end to her relationship with Greg three months ago.

  If she was going to be completely honest with herself she'd probably allowed things to progress with the lying bastard because she knew it would bug the hell out of Caine, probably one last act of childhood rebellion that she'd forgotten to release all those years ago. Then again if it had bothered Caine it never showed. Not once during her entire four month relationship with Greg had Caine behaved as if he cared or even noticed. That wasn't surprising since he hadn't spoken one word to her in the eleven years since he ended their friendship. Not that it mattered to her anymore. She wasn't that seventeen year old kid who got her heart broken by the only person she ever trusted anymore.

  "We're not finished here yet," Greg stated loudly, making Danni wince when the echo seemed to ring inside her head.

  Her stomach twisted painfully as nausea rolled through her. She needed to get out of here. Throwing her small pack over her shoulder she got to her feet and as casually as she could she headed for the tunnel opening. Thankfully, no one looked her way. They were too busy watching the pissing contest.

  "I am," Caine said, staring down the much smaller man.

  As she progressed towards the tunnel opening she noted Greg's wince, but he didn't back down. He never would in front of a crowd. He really thought he was tough and worked hard to make everybody believe it.

  "You're staying here until I say we're ready," Greg snapped.

  "I'm not your bitch, boy," Caine said between clenched teeth. He took a menacing step towards the smaller man. "Or do we need to have another talk?"

  Was it her imagination or did both men just shoot glances at her? Whatever. Danni didn't have time for this. She was about thirty seconds away from losing her aspirin dinner.

  When she thought she was far enough inside the long, dark tunnel so no one could see her, she broke out into a run. She stumbled several times, but didn't stop, desperate for fresh air. She ran until she spotted a lone figure guarding the ladder. Without pausing, she nodded to him and quickly climbed up.

  Once she made it out she quickly ducked behind the old restaurant's rusty dumpster and not a moment too soon. Before her knees hit the pavement she was vomiting. Closing her eyes, she welcomed the frigid assault of the cold January air against her face and in her lungs. It quickly suppressed the remaining nausea and acted like a balm to her splitting headache.

  She took a moment to calm her breathing, knowing she should walk the block to where their vans were parked, crawl in the back and wait to go home, but she couldn't. This was her job, her responsibility, and her life. She couldn't turn her back on it.

  After the last wave of dizziness left her she returned to the tunnels, determined to get this over with quickly so she could go home to her painkillers and bed.


  Caine rammed his fingers through his hair as he fought back the urge to turn around and rip that asshole's throat out. He didn't, but he was so fucking tempted.

  The little bastard was on a massive power trip. He still couldn't understand what the hell Thomas had been thinking setting his son up as team leader tonight. Such blatant nepotism was only going to come back and bite him in the ass, especially when his golden boy fucked up and sent half the team home in body bags.

  He could easily think of five people out of that group of humans who were more qualified to lead this mission than the little prick. He didn't bother counting himself in that number since he was technically still a prisoner of the Sentinel Council. They liked to say he was on "probation," but it was all just sugarcoated bullshit as far as he was concerned.

  They didn't trust him and for good reason. Twenty-five years of good behavior wasn't enough to erase five hundred years worth of destruction no matter how many lives he'd saved. He didn't bother getting pissed about it, because he didn't hide from his past or tried to excuse it. He knew
exactly who he was and what he'd done. Hell, if he were them he wouldn't trust him either.

  The Council would probably trust him more if they could control him or had some leverage over him, but they couldn't and didn't. They all knew that nothing short of a bullet in the head or heart would incapacitate him long enough for them to throw his ass back into a cell. Then they'd have that little problem of keeping his ass locked up until they could figure out what to do with him. Considering how easily he escaped twenty-five years ago, he didn't have much faith in them getting the job done right this time around.

  Remorse wasn't enough to make him stay here and bust his ass day after day and they all knew it. He could just as easily do this on his own or do the whole self-denial, self-punishment bullshit in the mountains, living off squirrel blood to make up for his past sins. Truth was, this job was nothing but a rest stop for him until he figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of eternity. There wasn't much he hadn't done or seen in his nearly thousand year existence and now he was truly stumped on what his next step should be.

  It's funny how twenty-five years hadn't changed that. When he'd escaped from his cell his only thoughts had been to get away to clear his head. He could still hear the blaring alarms that echoed throughout the large mansion as he made his way to the front door since he refused to crawl out of a window like some coward.

  Somehow he ended up in one of the residential wings. Women grabbed their children and fled behind locked doors as he stormed down the hall. He remembered cursing at himself for his stupidity at getting caught in the first place when this little girl, a toddler really, with pretty violet eyes and midnight black hair stepped into the hall right in front of him, halting his escape.

  She looked up at him for a moment, just studying him. He waited for her to scream for help as she ran away crying from the monster stalking the halls. What he hadn't been prepared for was the little girl nodding firmly as if she'd decided something important and grabbing his hand.

  He'd been so shocked by her reaction to him that he'd let her drag him down the hall without protest. Over the centuries grown men had pissed themselves when they saw his red eyes and fangs, but that small little tot had dragged him down the hall like he was her favorite pull toy.

  When she pulled him into her family's living quarters he expected a pair of seriously pissed off Sentinels to attack him, but there had been no one. The only sound in the luxury apartment came from the cartoon playing on the large living room television. She pulled him into the small kitchen and pointed expectantly to a cabinet. Reluctantly he opened it, thinking her parents really fucked up on the whole "stay away from strangers" talk.

  To this day he could still remember the sweet sound of her voice as she said, "Hungie."

  Hating himself for not leaving her in the hallway and hauling his ass out of there when he had the chance, he grabbed the damn rainbow box and let himself get bossed around by the little midget. Five minutes later she was happily eating her bowl of rainbow puffs while sitting on his knee in front of the television.

  Twenty minutes later two dozen Sentinels stormed the apartment and he willingly went with them, happy to get away from the singing and dancing dog on the television. The little girl who clung to his neck as they drew their weapons may have had something to do with his surrender. For the first time in centuries he hadn't wanted to see another living thing hurt and that confused the living hell out of him, leaving him with absolutely no idea what to do with himself.

  After that he decided to hang around to figure some things out. The little girl quickly became his shadow. He hadn't said anything to run her off mostly because she didn't get on his nerves like everyone else did. Soon he found himself drinking imaginary tea with teddy bears, kissing skinned knees, and teaching her how to beat the shit out of the school bully.

  Those had been the best years of his life. Then......then she just had to go and change everything by growing up. One day she'd been the sweet girl complaining about her math teacher and the next minute she'd been a desirable woman. He silently cursed his own stupidity for thinking about her, something he did at least a dozen times a day.

  Not that he cared about her. He didn't. He never allowed anything or anyone to matter to him. She was just an old responsibility and since he was still hanging around he kept an eye out for her just to have something to do while he tried to figure things out.

  It meant nothing.

  Just like that little "talk" he'd had with the dipshit a month ago and the half dozen or so other talks he had with him over the previous four months. He hated the little shit and gladly welcomed any reason to beat the hell out of him. Kicking the crap out of Greg entertained him almost as much as the bullshit stories the little bastard made up to cover his injuries. Greg didn't want anyone to know that the Council's "bitch" had bested him.

  He walked towards the ladder, smirking as the human posted there to guard the entrance backed up anxiously. Every human and Sentinel feared him and rightly so. He was a monster and it was in his nature to destroy. Given the smallest inclination and would do just that.

  Chapter 2

  "Danni, what's your location?" Greg demanded.

  She pressed her finger to the small button on her headset and answered as she surveyed the dark tunnel that opened to the right. "I'm in section C-23." Where you assigned me, asshole, but she didn't say that out loud mostly because she didn't want to prolong this conversation.

  Crouching low, she adjusted the resolution of her night vision goggles. After making sure the tunnel was clear and no one was sneaking up behind her she bypassed the tunnel opening and continued forward. She was about a thousand yards from where they believed the nest was located.

  That nagging feeling she'd been doing her damndest to ignore since she heard about this mission a week ago snuck up on her again. Something about this didn't feel right. It wasn't just the fact that Greg was put in charge, even though that had been a shock. The location was the main problem.

  Why would a group of vampires choose to live in an old tunnel system that had been abandoned over a century ago instead of in any of the thousands of buildings above them? Last time she checked Manhattan hadn't been lacking in space. They could find dark spaces to keep out the sun in thousands of other locations.

  Of course there were homeless vampires that thought themselves no better than animals, but those were a minority. To actually have an entire nest turning their backs on human comforts was rare. Then again, they were on the local Sentinel shit list.

  Her crew wouldn't even be here if something big wasn't going down. Normally a Sentinel unit would clear this nest with the human squad as back up. With their natural speed and strength the Sentinels were the only ones who could easily handle a nest this size. Things changed a little over eight months ago when an alert went out and every Sentinel in the world found themselves battling to stop the Masters from uniting. That left human units like hers with handling nests like this one for the time being.

  Over the years Danni had managed to tag along with various Sentinel units as part of her training. It didn't take long for her to figure out that she was out of her league. They moved faster, hit harder and fought without a second's hesitation. She'd known then if she was ever going to be considered worthy to fight alongside them permanently, she'd have to set herself apart from the other humans working for the Sentinels.

  So, for the past eleven years since Caine stopped training with her, she trained twice as hard and patrolled more hours than anyone in her unit until patrolling and fighting became second nature to her. Her hard work hadn't gone unnoticed. She was asked several times over the years to aide on missions like this one. More so in the past two years, but that would all change soon.

  "I need you to head over to section G-8," Greg said in a hard tone he probably hoped she'd obey.

  She snorted. No such luck. She wasn't one of those mindless drones who did what they were told without question. Especially since she knew that particular
section of tunnel led to a dead end and more importantly it was located in the opposite direction of the nest.

  "That's a dead end," she said, continuing forward.

  "Negative. Go to channel 14B. All others continue with your assignments."

  Danni rolled her eyes as she crouched with her back to the tunnel so she could scan the area while she had this asinine conversation. It only took a second to switch over to the secured channel they used to cut down on chatter and prepared herself for whatever bullshit he was about to throw her way.

  She knew this tunnel system backwards and forwards, a skill she'd forced herself to learn. It saved time instead of having to find a safe spot to take out a map and of course kept her ass safe on more than one occasion.

  "That section has no bisecting tunnels or access to manhole covers. It is a dead end and in the opposite side of where I need to be," she explained, unable to hide the irritation in her voice as her headache flared once again.

  "I just got my hands on the blueprint of this tunnel system from 1907. It shows G-8 was finished as an emergency escape route. It wraps around and connects to C-24," Greg explained.